|Brazilian legend Leandro Barbosa gets his kicks with Celtics||11.28.12 at 9:37 am ET|
Leandrinho. The Brazilian Blur. LB.
Leandro Barbosa has many different nicknames, but to anyone who has ever met the man, only one word will do.
“There was nobody who didn’t like LB,” said Jack McCallum, the longtime Sports Illustrated journalist and author of “Seven Seconds or Less,” a phenomenal snapshot of the Suns team — and the league — during the 2005-06 season. ”LB was loved. He had a kind of innocence about him, and a real work ethic with the way he approached everything. He looked at himself as kind of an open book whereas a lot of guys who come into the NBA — guys without LB’s ability or talent — think they know everything, but LB was never like that.”
Barbosa, who celebrates his 30th birthday Wednesday, grew up in São Paulo, the world’s seventh largest city by population, and a hotbed for soccer.
“I’m from Brazil, so everybody knows about soccer,” said Barbosa, whose subtle accent still creeps up in conversation. ”I used to play when I was a little kid, but I decide to play a different sport.”
Barbosa, the youngest of five children, wanted to play basketball for a pretty simple reason. His brother played.
“My brother Arturo played professionally,” Barbosa said. ”I always was around him; whatever he was doing, I wanted to do the same thing. I decided to play basketball because of him. Arturo started teaching me how to play.”
Arturo, 20 years older than Barbosa, became a driving force in his little brother’s basketball career.
“Arturo was a pretty tough taskmaster,” McCallum said. ”I don’t think those of us in the States really understand much about how kids in other countries learn the game. We just know they learn the game differently. LB still has scars from Arturo.”
McCallum wasn’t talking figuratively. If Barbosa made a mistake in his ball-handling drills, there were consequences. Arturo would whack him with a stick.
“I had to be quick with the ball, quick with my hands, because if I wasn’t, he slapped with me the stick,” said Barbosa, who still bears the scars on both hands. ”At the time, as a kid, I was crying. I didn’t know why he was doing that. But if it wasn’t for all the work he put in, I don’t think I’d be here in the NBA. Those drills still stay with me.”
|Doc Rivers picks up another award||05.14.12 at 6:36 pm ET|
The following should come as no surprise: Doc Rivers is very media friendly.
On Monday, the Professional Basketball Writers Association recognized this formally by announcing the Celtics head coach was voted the winner of the annual “Rudy Tomjanovich Award” – given to the head coach considered the most accessible to the media.
Rivers received 33 votes, topping a group that included Denver’s George Karl (13), Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy (9) and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle (2).
The PBWA also handed out two other awards. Phoenix Suns star point guard Steve Nash was announced as the winner of “The Magic Johnson Award” – the equivalent of Rivers’ award on the players’ side. The Milwaukee Bucks media relations staff was given the “Brian McIntyre Award” as the league’s most enterprising and helpful public relations staff.
|Irish Coffee: An All-NBA case for Rajon Rondo||04.17.12 at 2:16 pm ET|
By now, you know Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 22 straight games with at least 10 assists trails John Stockton‘s record of 29 by seven. With only five games left, that record will stand at least until the 2012-13 NBA season begins.
But just how good has Rondo been during this streak, and this entire season for that matter?
In his last 22 games, Rondo has averaged 10.1 points, 13.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals, leading the Celtics to a 15-7 record. He has totaled 223 points and 303 assists — 57 of which led to 3-pointers — putting his hand in 886 of the C’s 2,050 points (43.2%) in that span.
To put that in perspective, NBA MVP favorite LeBron James has averaged 26.1 points and 5.5 assists in his last 22 games, leading the Heat to a 14-8 record. He has totaled 574 points and 121 assists (25 on 3P) in that span, generating 841 of Miami’s 2,081 points (40.4%).
And those numbers aren’t too far off Rondo’s season averages of 12.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Out of all the players in NBA backcourts, Rondo may fall outside the top 50 in scoring, but he ranks first among guards in assists, fourth in rebounds (behind two guards Paul George, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) and fourth in steals (behind only Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio).
All of which begs the question: Should Rondo make First Team All-NBA?
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m in a rhythm of finding guys’||03.29.12 at 11:17 am ET|
Take care of the rock.
It’s the simplest of principles in basketball yet sometimes the most challenging.
No one knows this more than Rajon Rondo.
His 14 assists Wednesday gave him double-digit assist totals for 11 straight games, the first player with such a string since Steve Nash went on his remarkable run in 2009. But in those 11 games, he’s committed six turnovers three times and four turnovers twice. Doc Rivers challenged him after the All-Star break to cut down on the turnovers and see what happens.
“Well it’s been down since All-Star break and we’ve had a couple of them, but overall our numbers are down and that’s huge,” Rivers said Wednesday. “We made some changes, which I probably should have made earlier in the year and since we’ve made those our turnovers have been way down.
“The only big we throw it to is [Kevin Garnett], above the elbow, basically its that simple,” Rivers added. “Before we were running all the elbow offense, but it was any big and we realized that maybe Kevin should be the only ball handler above the circle.”
And the change from Rondo?
“He’s probably talking about me,” Rondo said. “When I take care of the ball, we take care of the ball as a team so I try to go in with that focus. It starts with the point guard. I have the ball in my hands a lot of the time on the floor. So, if I can take care of the ball, we tend to follow.”
The turnover ratio can explain so much. It can explain why a team that has trouble taking care of the ball possession after possession allows its opponent to get easy buckets in transition.
In the college game, we’ve seen what the University of Kentucky has done turning teams over with its pressure defense. Close games become blowouts in the blink of an eye.
In the NBA this season, we’ve seen a Philadelphia team overachieve and lead its division for most of the season because they are hardly turning the ball over at all. They are on pace to commit fewer than 11 turnovers a game, breaking the previous record of the 2006 Detroit Pistons.
And now we’re seeing the benefit of taking care of the ball from Rondo and the Celtics.
The Celtics have been beaten on the glass by an average of 10 rebounds per game over a stretch in which they’ve gone 4-2. Why? Because they’re committing fewer and fewer turnovers. Take Wednesday night for example.
The rebounding tote board read 43-25 at one point in favor of Utah. But the Celtics committed just six turnovers three quarters while Utah had committed 13, leading to 18 Celtics points. The final numbers were 49-38 and 12-15, respectively.
|Avery Bradley’s successful first NBA start||01.21.12 at 1:44 am ET|
In the first quarter of Friday night’s loss against the Suns, Avery Bradley picked off a pass at midcourt and converted an easy layup. In the fourth quarter, Bradley lunged after a loose ball underneath Boston’s basket, saving a possession that led to a score.
That’s his job: Provide energy and defense.
Injuries to Rajon Rondo and Keyon Dooling gave Bradley an opportunity to make his first start in the NBA. The experience was valuable.
“It builds my confidence a lot,” said Bradley. ”Every game I play I know what Doc [Rivers] and my teammates expect from me — to bring that energy every time I step on the floor.”
He was tasked with defending two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Bradley felt his best chance to combat the 37-year-old was to antagonize him with aggressive defense.
“I tried to get him tired,” Bradley said. “[I] picked him up full court to let him know I was going to bother him the whole game.”
|Fast Break: Suns rise, Celtics fall … again||01.20.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
Friday night’s Celtics game against the Suns at the Garden was a familiar story: Get off to a slow start, fall behind by double digits, make it close and fall behind again after exerting too much energy playing from behind all night.
The final result: A 79-71 Phoenix victory in Boston.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 14 points. Paul Pierce (12), Brandon Bass (11), Kevin Garnett (10) and Avery Bradley all reached double figures, but the C’s (5-9) lost their sixth game in seven tries.
Suns center Marcin Gortat totaled 24 points (14 in the first quarter) and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns (6-9). Steve Nash added 11 points and nine assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Pole position: Gortat scored almost as many points in the first quarter (14) as the Celtics (15) — on just as many field goals (7) and eight fewer shots (19-11). If Jermaine O’Neal wants to be judged on his defense, let’s just say it wasn’t so good early, and the Celtics were forced to play catch-up all night once again.
Poor paint job: The Celtics simply had nobody capable of getting to the rim and scoring. Their guards weren’t deft enough to get to the hoop, and their bigs weren’t athletic enough to get their shot off cleanly. On multiple occasions, Paul Pierce worked his way into the paint, only to be contested by a quicker defender who could simply jump higher.
Rondo a no go: Let’s face it: At this point, Rondo is the Celtics offense. Without him orchestrating and finding Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the wings or Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass for open jumpers, everything else falls apart. Even with Rondo, the Celtics offense hasn’t exactly looked pretty this season. Without him, it’s downright ugly. The Celtics succeeded in keeping their turnover total high (18), leading to 20 Phoenix points.
|NBA Draft day rumors, 11:30 a.m.: Steve Nash will not be traded||06.23.11 at 11:36 am ET|
There have been rumors surrounding the Suns and the team possibly trading point guard Steve Nash. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby put an end to those rumors on Wednesday.
In an email to Sports Illustrated Babby wrote: “We are not trading Marcin Gortat, period. End of sentence. We are not trading Steve Nash, period, exclamation point.”
Nash does not believe he will be traded.
“They’ve told me plenty of times they don’t want to move me, so I don’t think they need to call me every day,” Nash said Wednesday. “I’m not up to date on all the rumors. Right now I have a contract with the Suns. I hope this year is better than last and I’m ready to keep playing in Phoenix and continue to build the team and win a championship.”
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